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LG Twins looking to end KBO title drought vs. surging KT Wiz

Nov. 6, 2023 - 09:37 By Yonhap
In this file photo from Oct. 15, LG Twins players celebrate their Korea Baseball Organization regular season crown during a ceremony at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

In 1994, the last time the LG Twins won the Korean Series title as the champions of the Korea Baseball Organization, the league only had eight teams. The KT Wiz didn't even exist then.

The Wiz joined the league in 2015 as the 10th team. Just six years later, they won their first Korean Series championship.

Starting Tuesday, the two clubs will square off in the best-of-seven Korean Series, with the Twins trying to end a drought that has gone on for nearly three decades, and the Wiz chasing their second title in three seasons to add a new chapter to their expansive success story.

Game 1 is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul.

The Twins had the best record in the regular season at 86-56-2 (wins-losses-ties) and earned a bye to the Korean Series. They will have the home field advantage, and will host Games 1 and 2, plus Games 5, 6 and 7, if necessary.

The Wiz, who finished 6.5 games behind the Twins for second place at 79-62-3, will host Games 3 and 4 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, just south of the capital.

The Twins played their final regular season game on Oct. 15 and have tried to stay sharp by playing scrimmages. The Wiz had 19 days off between the end of their regular season and the start of the previous series against the NC Dinos. The Wiz played five games in seven days to knock off the Dinos and reach the Korean Series.

The Twins have long been one of the most popular clubs in the KBO, and they also have an aggrieved fan base because of their long championship drought. This is their first Korean Series appearance since 2002.

They won 10 out of 16 regular season meetings against the Wiz. Casey Kelly, the staff ace already announced as Game 1 starter, went 1-1 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts against the Wiz. He struck out 19 and walked three in 25 innings.

Reliever Jung Woo-young picked up three relief wins against the Wiz. The right-hander only had two other wins against everyone else this year. Jung allowed one run in eight innings.

Closer Go Woo-suk recorded two saves but also took two losses against the Wiz, while pitching to a 7.94 ERA with five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Go had an injury scare during a scrimmage last week, when he halted his outing with lower back pains. The Twins said he's dealing with muscle ache, with no structural damage, and that he should be ready for the Korean Series.

The Twins caught a break in the way the Wiz's rotation is set up after their five-game series against the NC Dinos, because they will avoid Wiz left-hander Wes Benjamin, who dominated the Twins in the regular season, until at least Game 3 in the Korean Series.

Benjamin had to pitch Game 5 against the Dinos on Sunday and went five innings on 83 pitches. The earliest he can go in the Korean Series is Game 3 on Friday on four days' rest.

Benjamin went 4-0 with a sparkling 0.84 ERA in five starts against the Twins. He held them to three earned runs on 19 hits, while striking out 30 and walking three in 32 1/3 innings.

Other Wiz starters had some trouble against the Twins, who led the regular season in batting average, runs and on-base plus slugging. The Twins also struck out the fewest times at 804 and walked more than anyone else with 583.

Sidearm pitcher Ko Young-pyo was 0-2 in four starts against the Twins with a 7.36 ERA. William Cuevas had an 11.45 ERA in three starts against the Twins, letting in 14 runs on 21 hits in only 11 innings.

Even the vaunted Wiz bullpen struggled against the Twins. Setup man Son Dong-hyun, the series MVP against the Dinos after throwing seven scoreless innings in five games, had a 4.50 ERA in six outings against the Twins. Park Yeong-hyun, who usually handles the eighth inning for the Wiz, gave up four runs in five innings against the Twins for a 7.20 ERA.

On offense for the Twins, Hong Chang-ki batted .364 with team highs of 24 hits, 10 doubles and 14 RBIs versus the Wiz.

The Twins led the KBO with 166 steals, and they swiped 33 bags against the Wiz, more than against anyone else.

For the Wiz, Bae Jung-dae put up a .429 batting average against the Twins. Ex-Twin Park Byung-ho led his current club with 19 hits and 13 RBIs in 16 games against his former team. Anthony Alford belted three home runs off Twins pitching. (Yonhap)